David Templeton: Methil magic to Hearts heroics - Hamilton Accies talisman whose Rangers move came at wrong time

I remember the first time I saw David Templeton in the flesh. Preston Athletic v Stenhousemuir in the Scottish Cup first round, November 2006.

David Templeton put Hearts ahead in Liverpool. Picture: SNS
David Templeton put Hearts ahead in Liverpool. Picture: SNS

Just 17 at the time, the forward had, across the past year, made a name for himself at the Warriors as one of the most precocious youngsters in the country. A genuinely tantalising and, dare it be said, titillating talent. His name had been linked to a host of clubs, north and south of the border.

Heading along to Pennypit Park, a nerd who played far too much Football Manager, there the excitement of seeing a Scottish football wunderkind up close and personal.

Templeton, who retired from playing on Wednesday aged 32, hadn’t so much as broke onto the scene with Stenhousemuir but exploded with as bombastic an introduction as if he had been shot from a cannon over a stand, landing perfectly on his feet in the middle of the pitch.

Templeton made his debut for Stenhousemuir at 16. Picture: SNS

Speaking to Tell Him He’s Pele in 2012, Des McKeown spoke of the process of handing him his debut on a Saturday afternoon in November 2005.

An afternoon in Methil

"To cut a long story short, I thought, sod it, let’s get him into the squad for the first team.”

The 16-year-old, who looked even younger, emerged from the bench in the second half as Stenny trailed 2-0 at East Fife. Come the full-time whistle he had had a hand in goals one and two and scored the third.

The forward's career at Rangers ended with injury. Picture: SNS

To Stenhousemuir fans at New Bayview that day, it was memorable. He was mesmerising.

It wasn’t a one-off. There were other notable moments, making it known that he was at Ochilview for a good time, not a long time.

That afternoon in Prestonpans in 2006 won't go down as one of his better displays in a Stenny shirt, the Warriors defeated 2-0.

Two months later he was signed by Hearts for £30,000, joining the likes of Arkadiusz Klimek, Eduardas Kurskis and Arnas Lekevicius as a January signing.

Templeton couldn't recapture the form of his first spell at Accies before retiring due to injury. (Photo by Roddy Scott / SNS Group)

His impact wasn’t as sudden as it was at Stenhousemuir. The jump from the fourth tier to the top-flight too vast with work on the physical side of the game required. A first-team debut didn't arrive until the 2008/09 campaign and against Aberdeen as a substitute. A fitting opponent considering the player had, in a tale as old as day, been released by the Dons as a teenager for being too small.

Like a rainbow

Templeton's time at Tynecastle is remembered fondly, especially as he gave his side of the exit in 2012 to fourth tier Rangers which had left a bad taste in the mouth of fans.

"The thing that was easy about it was I was getting forced out from Hearts, because they were struggling financially and they needed the money badly, or else I think they were going to go bust, to be honest.

“They came out and made it as if I was a bad egg, basically.”

A club statement had read: "We did not want to sell him but there was no reason to keep him as his mind and heart was not with Hearts.”

It was a narrative which earned greater credence with the suggestion Paulo Sergio left him out of the 2012 Scottish Cup-winning squad due to attitude. It is hard to imagine with Templeton hugely popular amongst those he has worked with, while the Portuguese manager has since spoken effusively about the player.

On the pitch, Templeton dazzled at Hearts but there will always be a nagging feeling around his Tynecastle spell, and his career in general, that he didn't reach the level his talent suggested he would on a more consistent basis.

Many Hearts fans will look to the memories of the goal at Anfield against Liverpool in the Europa League but perhaps the finest moment in his career, signalling the natural talent which should have been witnessed on a bigger stage, possibly the international one with Scotland, came at Easter Road in an Edinburgh derby.

Like a rainbow, elusive and intangible, he scored one of the great goals in the fixture.

Picking up the ball just inside the Hibs half, he turned, sped away from three opponents, while avoiding the attention of three more to fire into the bottom corner. Weaving his way round a green assault course. The type of goal you dream of scoring, even as an adult.

Players who have played with and against him, have spoken of his physique, as well as his technical skills. A low-centre of gravity, he developed that strong base which made it difficult to get the ball off of him.

Rangers and Hamilton

In a different era, the move to Rangers would have been when the Ibrox side were challenging at the top of the Premiership, competing in Europe. It came at the wrong time.

To some, he stagnated at a time when the club was somewhat chaotically navigating through their journey back to the top tier. The injury which brought an end to his time at the club and even forced him into a depression was only diagnosed properly once he had left.

A new lease of life was found at Hamilton Accies. It appeared he had taken a step back to motor forward. He became a talisman. One of the most exciting players in the Premiership in the 2017/18 season.

Matured and with plenty of football and life experience, he became a leader at New Douglas Park. When Templeton played, Accies were a different beast. He earned the adoration of the club’s fans.

After a short spell down south with Burton Albion he was welcomed back with open arms. Once more, if Templeton played, everything was okay.

But that ultimately became the problem. Increasingly he wasn’t fit enough to play. His second spell, reduced to just a handful of games before the decision was taken to retire.

What a player. What an emergence. What a story. But what a shame we couldn’t see more of him.

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